Congratulations: You’ve Been Thrown into the Pool.
Scenario 1: The Water is Cold
A new professor walks into an Introduction to Sociology course. He is greeted by thirty students not on the roster who want to enroll. Several students on the roster are either absent or wander in at some point during the class. Few students have the textbooks. Many seem unengaged. What the new professor had planned as a rousing talk on what sociology is all about and its importance to our world today devolves into an hour of roster adjustment, syllabus reading, and instructions on what students need to do in order to be prepared for the next class meeting.
The next class meeting seems to be going a little better. Our new professor, after making further roster adjustments and handing out additional copies of the syllabus (or directing, again, students to the class web site to obtain documents and assignments), actually begins to lecture. Students take notes. The lecture is interrupted twice, however—once by a student who is enrolled but “couldn’t attend the first day” and another time by a small group of students who enter the classroom and wonder if any spaces are available. Our professor presses on. Then, about half way through his lecture, he asks questions and comes to the conclusion that most of the students did not complete the reading for today. He gives an impromptu quiz, finishes (part of) his lecture, and realizes that he is about a course meeting behind where he wants to be in imparting the course content.
During his next two lectures, he rushes through the material to catch up. Students should be taking notes, but many are just listening; one or two are gazing out the window. Some seem to be texting. Attendance is not the best. The scores on the quiz were miserable. As he introduces the first essay assignment, he mentions (having heard the low down from his colleagues) that academic dishonesty is something to be taken very seriously, and that he will be on the lookout. One or two students ask questions about small details that are clearly stated on the assignment sheet and the course syllabus. He notices that a good number of students have not brought the book to class—can it be that some students still have not bought the book? One student asks a question that seems to have an edge to it at the end of lecture; he does not know how to respond, given that he does not remember his professors answering such questions.
Not everyone turns in the first essay, and when he distributes the first exam—clearly stated on the syllabus’s course schedule—not everyone is present and some seem surprised that an exam is being given. At the end of class that day, a few students approach him and ask if they can still hand in the essay for full credit even though it will be late. One student has apparently simply left a late essay on the podium. In subsequent course meetings, student questions become more infrequent. One day, five minutes into a lecture, a student raises his hand and asks if there will be a review session for the upcoming midterm. Several students in the back of the class are talking quietly; others are texting. At the end of another class, two students come up to appeal their essay grades. Upon returning to his office, he receives an email that the department chair would like to meet with him regarding a student complaint.
What has happened, he thinks? Who are these unprepared, indifferent, and sometimes even hostile students? He has just been trying to teach the course material. Perhaps he needs to be tougher.
Daniel and David discuss solutions to this scenario.
We recorded this podcast on Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Our upcoming book:The Caring Professor: A Guide to Effective, Rewarding, and Rigorous Teaching, was written with feedback from many educators and students, which was our plan all along. We began by outlining our thoughts on a series of topics, then we recorded them to share with the world. From the feedback we received, we were informed about the needs of the student caring community. We need your feedback so we may continue to fulfill our mission statement and help students, the world over.
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